Gravestone of John E. Wolfe, Saint James Cemetery, Toronto, Iowa

Gravestone of John E. Wolfe, Saint James Cemetery, Toronto, Iowa

JOHN E. WOLFE (1837–1918)

John Edmond Wolfe was born on November 22, 1837, in Listowel, County Kerry, Ireland. He was the son of an unknown father and a mother with the maiden name O'Sullivan. His paternal grandfather was James M. Wolfe and his siblings included Ellen J. (b. 1832), Mary Agatha (b. 1834), and Patrick (b. ca. 1844), the latter’s relationship remaining unconfirmed.

Wolfe and all of his known siblings immigrated to the United States, but the circumstances of their travel is unclear. They probably were accompanied by other relatives, and during the 1840s many Wolfes left Ireland and settled first in LaSalle County, Illinois, and then in Clinton County, Iowa. These included John Wolfe’s cousin Maurice Wolfe and uncle John R. Wolfe, who sailed together on the Cornelia in 1847; Thomas R. Wolfe, who sailed the James H. Shepherd in 1848; Richard Wolfe, who took the Thomas H. Perkins in 1848; Maurice R. Wolfe, who took the Senator in 1849; and Richard Wolfe, who sailed the Liverpool in 1849. All these men shared a descent from Maurice J. “Old Maurice” Wolfe.

Wolfe’s obituary states he came to the United States in 1850 and settled in Clinton County, Iowa, in 1858. Other accounts have him arriving in Iowa a year earlier. Whatever the case, in the federal census of 1860 he is identified as a wagon maker living in Liberty Township in the household of Aurell Grovener, a hotelkeeper. He probably lived briefly in LaSalle County, Illinois, become coming to Iowa, and his sisters remained there.

According to a letter written by Timothy Wolfe to one of John E. Wolfe's sons about 1929, the Wolfe homestead on the River Feale in Kerry had been called Garryanthanavalla. "The beautiful place which your father and his relatives left vacant when they went to Illinois some seventy years ago has never since been tenanted and has all the time been used as a grazing ranch."

On November 8, 1863, Wolfe married Margaret Mills, a native of County Mayo, Ireland, in DeWitt, Iowa. The couple had at least nine children: Edmund Mills (b. 1864), Anthony Mills (b. 1866), Mary Mayme (b. 1868), Maurice Vincent (b. 1874), Patrick Joseph (b. 1874), Cecelia Ellen (b. 1877), Ellen Vita “Nellie” (b. 1879), John (b. 1883), and Arthur Gerald (b. 1885).

In 1870, Wolfe is identified by the census as a farmer living with his wife, children, and his wife’s sister, Celia Mills, who worked as a domestic servant. The History of Clinton County, Iowa, published in 1879, attributes to him 320 acres of land valued at $30 per acre. By 1900, Wolfe had retired to DeWitt, and he signed his will on August 12, 1917. He died on March 30, 1918, and his wife on January 16, 1938. They are buried together at Saint James Cemetery in Toronto, Iowa.